Q: Dear Meredith,
I am in my late 30s, and my boyfriend (of almost 4 years now) is 35. We have a very solid relationship in many ways and are highly compatible (we both love travel, cooking, working on our home that we own together, music, and the outdoors among many other things). We have similar goals in life. However, I feel like over the last year or so, our relationship has come to a turning point and I don't know what to do.
Typically, when we have an argument it becomes a massive fight -- often lasting several days. Many times the fighting devolves into us talking as if we are both at our breaking point, both of us feeling that "we can't continue like this." Usually it's because he thinks I've had an "attitude" with him, and I get mad/frustrated at him because I feel like he's not valuing my opinion or that he's unable to just "agree to disagree." He also has completely flown off the handle at times during arguments in the past (screaming in my face in public, punching holes in doors), but thankfully that hasn't happened in the past 7 months or so and it seems like he is working on that.
Sometimes I feel like he'd rather fight with me than be on the same team. If I make a valid point, he gets downright infuriated. He'll try to redirect the real issue by bringing up past issues or nit-picky things. I keep telling him that this is not a debate -- there is no winner -- but it doesn't seem to be getting across. What's most disheartening is that after we fight, there is usually very little or no make-up. He holds grudges much more than I do. I am usually the one who tries to bring us back together on good terms, while he will continue to give me the cold shower for another 24 to 48 hours. My friends have even started to notice when he acts like this, and it can be embarrassing for me. From my perspective, arguments should be carried out in private or put aside when around the company of friends.
Finally, if we can work this issue out (learning how to fight and make up better), I want to get married. We are committed to each other, we own a home together, and I think he is the love of my life. We have talked about marriage several times. Almost two years ago now he said we could "go ring shopping together," but he never brought that up again since. He says he won't marry someone who yells at him or has an "attitude" -- but I think that's part of having human emotions, and part of being in a relationship. I worry that he will keep putting it off and never ask. At the same time, if we can't fight fair or reconnect after arguments, I don't know that we should get married.
My question to you is, should I give this relationship another six months to a year and then leave if things don't change? I worry that I will never find someone as compatible, handsome, intelligent, and challenging (I do enjoy being challenged, but only to a point). We love each other very much, but I wonder if this relationship is turning dysfunctional and if he'll ever fully commit to me.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
– At a Turning Point in Somerville
A: It's time for therapy, AATPIS. Don't wait six months to ask for it. You guys are fighting like crazy. Your friends are noticing the problems. Your boyfriend truly believes that you're instigating these arguments. This isn't going to get better until you let a third party help.
Just know that the third party might give you the tools you need to walk away from this with confidence. You say that you have a lot in common with your boyfriend, but you don't mention feeling safe, having fun, and being told that you're loved. You don't mention laughter and friendship. Maybe that stuff goes without saying, but I'm not so sure. And what's with all the "attitude" talk? What kind of partner does he want? Can you be that person?
Get to a professional's office where all will be revealed. Make sure that you spend some of your therapy time talking about how this relationship would work in your perfect world. Your boyfriend should understand what you're hoping to get out of this.
Again, don't wait six months for anything. You're already at a turning point. You must act now.
Readers? Should she try therapy? What about punching doors? Yelling at her in public? Is it possible that her attitude is truly a problem? Can this be fixed? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.